Self Care


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The last several months have been full of emotion.  Heartache, worry, anxiety, grief all have taken their place front and center in my life.  But, there also have been moments of inspiration, hope, and love.  I lean on my family, my friends,  and my learning network.  One of the resources that has been a blessing during this time is the Self-Care Resources for Educational Leaders compiled by Council of State Science Supervisors and published as part of the STEM Teaching Tools Support for COVID 19 resources.

The Self-Care guide has numerous resources divided into three categories:

  • Articles and Readings
  • Podcasts, videos, and interactives
  • “Putting it into Practices” resources

The introduction to the resource sums it all up– make time to take care of yourself in order to take care of others.  I have had to be reminded of that a lot during the last few months.  These resources, however, have helped me do just that.  As a result, I opened up space for inspiration, learning, and connection. If you are struggling, I encourage you to connect with others and carve out time for self-care.

Self Care

My WHY: Embracing myself as an amateur

I have recently been challenged to put more sharing into my personal work.  I have recently been encouraged to embrace the amateur in myself.  This blog is where the two intercept.

First, let’s start with Austin Kleon’s description of an amateur:  “an enthusiast who pursues her work in the spirit of love” … who will try anything and take risks because her love is so strong she are not afraid to make mistakes.  Amateurs are regular people who get obsessed with something that they then spend a lot of time learning about and thinking about.

Second, down the rabbit hole…(one in which the pursuit of something (such as an answer or solution) leads to other questions, problems, or pursuits- Merriam Webster)

Reflecting on Austin Kleon’s quoted and paraphrased description of an amateur led me back to my WHY– my lifelong pursuit or the reason why I do any work in the world at all :). 

My WHY- my journey- began in my youth.  

When I was young, I loved to swim.  I loved the freedom and exhilaration that I felt. In a way, the pursuit of my WHY began when I was a teenager and became a swim lesson instructor.  I wanted to share the gift of independence and of new opportunities, that would result from being able to swim, so others could experience what I cherished.   Whether working with children or adults, I found very early on that learning to swim meant confronting fear, it meant pushing limits.  Success for the new swimmer came from choice, trust, and partnership.  My students had to choose to let go of the side of the pool, they had to trust me, and we had to work together towards success.    I embraced the individual needs of my swimmers in training and never once considered that they would not achieve success.  I had some kids and adults who would go from gripping the side in fear to swimming in one season.  I also had adults who took a whole season of lessons just to gain enough confidence and courage to let go of the side of the pool, but who celebrated and returned next season for more lessons.  Those years of teenage swim-instructing taught me two things that became my compass.  Success comes in increments towards a destination (not in just reaching it); and for the rest of my life, I wanted to work with others towards empowerment, the kind of empowerment  that comes from a balance of knowledge and skill that creates opportunity for someone. Learning equals empowerment. And yes, that swim lessons instructor became a teacher.


I have been in pursuit of being a partner in learning towards empowerment for thirty-five years since the blossoming of that WHY.  It is a WHY so strong that it guides all of my professional choices, from little ones to big ones,  It also drives my lifelong learning.  


Lifelong learning- the pursuit for an amateur with a love– a WHY.  My thirty-five-year process has led me to places in my professional career I would never have predicted and has and is pushing me to learn things I also never imagined.  I am accepting the “sharing of learning” challenge this summer and committing to blogging about my learning once a week.  


This summer, I am sharing what I have been obsessing about for the fellowship and feedback.  I encourage you to join me in sharing your learning obsessions through tweets or blogs, and I humbly ask for your encouragement, comments, and feedback.

I want to end this first entry with thank you to Simon Sinek and his book Start with WHY that continues to inspire me.  I encourage you to give it a read (or a re-read like I am currently doing).  Or if time is an issue, watch the Ted Talk :).


Kicking off the school year… part 1

This weekend I was working with a teacher preparing for the first week of school.  This teacher has been thinking a lot about three-dimensional instruction and the vision articulated in A Framework for K-12 Science Education since his state adopted new state standards based on the Framework. Before his state adoption, he had consistently kicked off the school year with a demo embedded below.  This coaching moments blog focuses on a teacher’s evolving understanding and road to expertise as he translates the Framework vision into classroom teaching and learning.


“The mind is entertained by the unusual, the different, and the new.”

Andy Puddicombe, Headspace

On the first day of school in this teacher’s district, students only spent about 20 minutes in each period. He loved how curious and interested students were in the discrepant event embedded above.  It just felt right to him as a great way to kick off the year in a science classroom.  Last year, he had started learning more about the science and engineering practices with his new state adoption.  He noticed the mention of phenomena and use of observations as a foundation to begin the sensemaking process embedded throughout the elements of the science and engineering practices in appendix f of the Next Generation Science Standards.  With this new understanding, he added a focus on observations and inferences to his first activity with the goal of supporting students in being able to make careful, accurate and complete observations of phenomena in order to engage in the science and engineering practices. (Read more about his first iteration of the activity here).

asking Q progression with highlight

Since last fall, this teacher has evolved his understanding even further about the role of phenomena in a three-dimensional classroom.  This weekend our conversations included a-ha moments about how phenomena in this new Framework vision have many essential attributes.  They are engaging and evoked curiosity in kids (the gut feeling he experienced for years with this kick-off activity).  Phenomena empower students by becoming a rich context for their own questions (careful, complete, and accurate observations of phenomena increase the probability for good questions).  Phenomena are the context for both the scientist and the engineer because they can be explained with science ideas. This last attribute, the science ideas needed to explain the phenomenon, was the new understanding that this teacher wanted to add to the activity this year.  He wanted his students to start the year understanding how phenomena and their questions would drive learning in this classroom, and how phenomena will be the context for learning because we need science to explain them (and answer the questions we generated). His evolving understanding of the role of phenomena can be evidenced in his iteration of this kick-off activity, from fun engaging event to a trajectory for the year and an establishment of the culture of learning in this classroom:  

It is the phenomenon plus the student-generated questions about the phenomenon that guide the learning and teaching”

Using Phenomena in the NGSS resource from Achieve

In our conversations, we referred often to the resource linked above to deepen our understanding of phenomena and their critical role in the new vision for science education.  Coaching conversations using classroom experiences and third-point references and resources have resulted in this evolution of understanding.  How have you changed your thinking about phenomena and its focus in your classroom?


What We’re Thinking about…

I am a science teacher.  I am part of a team.

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Back in 2015, I wrote an article that described the process of implementing new science standards as Climbing the NGSS Mountain.  Stories about mountain climbing often include pushing outside of the comfort zone, accounts of hard times, tales of courage and success, and reflections on lessons learned.  Common essentials to mountaineering success are a guide and a team.  The What we’re thinking about blog category features the guides and the team discussions as we work for students using contemporary research in science education focused on HOW to support ALL kids in achieving scientific literacy and problem-solving proficiency so they can be successful in the world.


The best views come from the hardest climb.

I am blessed to be in the classroom- I have not found a more magical space than a community of students and teachers working together to figure something out or solve a problem TOGETHER.  My role in science education has changed somewhat in that I spend equal time thinking about student learning AND adult learning. The What we’re thinking about blog category shares the challenges and the victories from classrooms and adult learning experiences  highlighting collective discussions between communities of educators.

By three methods, we may learn wisdom:  First, by reflection, which is the noblest; Second, by imitation, which is the easiest; Third, by experience, which is the bitterest. (Confucius)

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Our guides, our team, and our path to translating the new vision for science education shared in bite-size form- that is the lens of this blog category.  We welcome your comments and invite you to share your climb.


An Invitation: Create a Lollipop Moment

The purpose of this blog is to encourage you to create a lollipop moment for someone else.  Thank you to Drew Dudley — Twitter @DayOneDrew  for the inspiration!  Check out his Ted Talk Everyday Leadership  

In this Ted Talk, Drew discusses lollipop moments that he defines as moments when someone says or does something that makes our lives better.  His claim is that these sometimes seemingly everyday moments are examples of leadership redefined. This got me thinking and reflecting on the moments that have made a difference in my life, and for the purpose of this blog, the moments that have made my professional life better.  Here are two game-changers in my professional life:

  1. In 2013, a friend of mine encouraged me to start blogging and share what was happening in my classroom.  She also mentored me through my first few blogs. That process of reflecting on my practice and sharing with others has made a world of difference in my classroom and in my professional life (and has open a million doors to new learning and new opportunities, both for my students and for myself).  You can read more about that here.
  2. The “bravery” I embraced that resulted in sharing our class story led to many opportunities for us, one of which was an opportunity to have a video shot in the Shelton classroom for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  The sharing of the Shelton story through this and other videos to follow opened up a new set of doors and opportunities for learning and growth for us.

There is a pattern in these two examples- my choice to share with others (the wins, the challenges, and the path) resulted in new learning and new opportunities for both me and my students.  One of the big impacts that I did not realize until many years later was that sharing our class story, sharing our road to attempt to translate the NGSS and the Framework into classroom instruction, supported others in their journey.  It also inspired them to do the same, to share their story and contribute to the conversation around contemporary research in science education.  This is an amazing era in science education.  Researchers, policy makers, scientists, and teachers all have a shared goal exemplified in A Framework for K-12 Science Education and three-dimensional standards, like the Next Generation Science Standards.  Teachers throughout the nation are working to support each other on the path to realize a new vision for students when it comes to STEM.  This is everyday leadership.

This Ted Talk took me back to those early days when I was attempting to translate the new vision for science education into my classroom- when I was unsure and maybe even scared.  I leaned on communities like #NGSSchat for support, and I sought out every opportunity for professional learning that I could find.  Once I designed my first instructional sequence and experienced the energy, excitement, student thinking and deep understanding of science that resulted, I knew I shouldn’t quit.  Also, I knew I had to share this journey with others.

You are catalysts for lollipop moments. What you are trying out in your classroom is an important contribution to the science community conversation? Please consider sharing.

You will be amazed at how much it will help you learn and grow; your sharing will support and inspire others..

Ideas to get started…

  1.  Share your Summer Learning book to read to the #NGSSchat and #SciRead As you read and learn, share your aha moments and Ideas for changing your practice to the hashtags (both please!) along with a link to your book.
  2. Comment on this blog with a tool, strategy, or resource that helped you translate 3D standards and/or contemporary research into your classroom.
  3. Share a tool or strategy that helped you translate 3D standards and/or contemporary research into your classroom on the #NGSSchat hashtag in a paragraph or even through a blog post shared to #NGSSchat and #Sci4allSs.


“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”

John F. Kennedy Jr

An Invitation to start a science blog focused on 3D Learning and/or the NGSS: Reflect, Connect, Share

My guess is that you became a science teacher because you love learning, you love working with kids, and you love science.  Loving science means you are probably a question-asker.

Today’s question:  “How do I grow as an educator and work to continually create improved classroom experiences to honor those students I love?

Today’s Answer:  Blogging

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This is an invitation to consider joining us in the #Sci4allSs  Blog Project taking place on Twitter at #Sci4allSs (Science for all students).

We would like to bring people together across states to share our thinking and learning around A Framework for K-12 Science Education and/or Next Generation Science Standards.  Implementation of this contemporary research will lead to great student achievement and progress towards the goal of new state and national 3D standards: depth of understanding through the three dimensions of science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts.  We call this thinking and acting like a scientist. True integration of the 3 dimensions to explain phenomena and solve problems, will require a collaborative effort, collective conversation, and individual reflection.  Blogging is one way to support this effort.

Why should we blog?

Reflective Thinking

Blogging gives you a platform for reflective thinking (writing that we do for ourselves to think through things). This clarification of our thinking helps us improve our practice by what I call reflection into action.  My reflections always move me forward in some way to the next steps mode, leading to my personal professional growth.

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Collective Conversation

By sharing your blog, you are making your thinking visible to others which supports them on the path of understanding, inspires reflection and revision of thinking.  Sharing your blog enables you to get feedback, affirmation, and a new lens into your classroom from others.  When you read and comment on the blog posts of others, you are also gaining great ideas and resources to enhance your own understanding and curate creative and innovative ideas for your classroom.

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Getting Started Tips

Blogging is about the journey of reflection and collective conversation.  It is not about perfectionism.  Every teacher has amazing things to share from their experience as a learner and a classroom leader.  Please consider sharing any 3D/NGSS reflections.

Some sample ideas:

  • your classroom story
  • your ideas and reflections
  • resources you are finding useful in implementing the Framework or new standards.
  • how you are utilizing technology to teach the three dimensions.
  • your PLC or PLN story
  • responses to something you have read or heard or conversed around (like in #NGSSchat 😀 )
  • things you try that may or may not have worked
  • ANYTHING you would like to clarify thinking around.  If it helps you, it will help others.

Blog Posting Suggestions:

  • Create a blog site using platforms like or
  • Create a blog post and send the url link to #Sci4allSs  and #NGSSchat on Twitter
  • Commit to trying to post your first blog (or first blog of 2019).
  • Commit to trying to comment and/or repost/retweet the blogs of others

Great website for teacher blogging tips

Blogging is about being part of a conversation.  Please consider becoming part of this global conversation around great science teaching and learning. Educator voices need to be shared and heard as we work towards shifting science education and preparing students for this 21st Century world.  All stakeholders (educators, parents, students) need to have a seat at the table about translating NGSS into classroom instruction during implementation.  As professionals and stakeholders in NGSS implementation, sharing our teaching and learning reflections is key to advancing science education.

For a Blog Coach consider the National Blogging Collaborative.

Contact me for more information:


Twitter: @tdishelton






My heart is full…

Teaching in the 21st century is full of challenges. Grappling with new standards, working to meet the needs of ALL students, and preparing students for opportunities in a rapidly changing world. Innovations in the 21st century have provided options to make tackling these challenges easier. Through technology and a national focus on supporting teacher leaders, there are many new opportunities to build relationships, seek or provide support, and share and receive knowledge so educators can learn and grow professionally. These educator communities inspire me.

I started this blog 5 years ago when I began to climb the NGSS mountain. I craved partnerships and networks on my road to expertise, and I wanted to reflect and document how these relationships were guiding my trajectory. I am full of appreciation for my mentors, partners and colleagues, especially the partnerships with the students in my classroom. Stories of these partnerships and my learning are sprinkled in past posts throughout this blog. Discussions and experiences continue to contribute to my professional growth and shape my thinking about science education today.

This is the best time in history to be a science educator! The energy and impacts of contemporary research on how kids learn can be seen and felt in classrooms throughout the nation. Every student has a right to a high-quality education. Educators and stakeholder are passionate about transforming classrooms to achieve the vision articulated in A Framework for K-12 Science Education, a collection of this contemporary research. This is more than a shift in thinking, this is a flip in how classrooms operate (thank you Okhee Lee for that great analogy). Transforming the way we teach science is complex and challenging. Partnerships, community, and networks are critical for success.

I am reviving this blog and committing myself to share highlights from the learning that I am blessed to experience as I work with educators throughout the US. Since I have transitioned from my own classroom to supporting classroom teaching and learning on a national scale, I embrace a responsibility to share the wonderful snapshots of classrooms, the tremendous work of teachers and those who support them, the new thinking and research on science education, and the tools and strategies and approaches that are making a difference. This blog will be a tapestry of classrooms, discussions, and people– all partners and stewards of science education.
My heart is full. I am in awe of the passion and hard work I observe from teachers on a regular basis. I am so appreciative of the conversations I have with teachers, researchers, curriculum writers, and education advocates. I can give back and show my appreciation by sharing. Thank you for checking in on the journey.


Our First Day


“Teacher Learning is interwoven with student learning”  This is a core belief from the Kentucky Teacher Leadership Framework that is the driver behind our Making Thinking Visible  partnership.  With the goal of implementing the Next Generation Science Standards, we started our discussions with the question:

When considering our past “first days” of our classes that focus on the nature of science, how does the new vision in the NGSS include how science works or the Nature of Science (NGSS Appendix h)?


A  key element of NGSS alignment is 3 Dimensional Learning.  The vision of the NGSS describes student learning as sensemaking where “students are, over multiple years of school, actively engaged in scientific and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen the understanding of the core ideas.” (Framework p. 10).  That sensemaking can also be described as the ability for students to connect empirical evidence to core ideas and crosscutting concepts to make sense of phenomena.  Empirical evidence is defined as information acquired by observation or experimentation that is recorded and analyzed.

Pre-NGSS, we often started our discussions at the beginning of the semester with a focus on observation and inference.  We may have even checked to see that students could explicitly define and describe these terms and differentiate between them.  In the NGSS era, observations are serving as the foundation of empirical evidence gathered, then reasoned, and finally communicated in an explanation of phenomena.  Using this understanding, we decided to focus on observation and inference but under the umbrella of gathering information that we can record, analyze, and then communicate an understanding of the natural world.  Our target was

Careful observation, attention to detail, and consideration of validity and reliability are important when acting and thinking like a scientist.

We didn’t just want students to know this, we wanted them to experience it and understand the importance of observations in understanding the world, and also in practicing science.  In addition, we wanted them to begin to see that it is evidence, not just answers, that we will value in this class.

Student Learning

This is a quick demonstration performed by the teacher where students are asked to make observations of a phenomenon.  


Teacher Learning

One of the outcomes of this experience that I did not see coming initially and used as a teachable moment was students confronting the bias that they bring into an experience, and why confronting this bias was important in a science classroom where empirical evidence is king.

Post ReflectionNGSS Brett Evidence

In NGSS Appendix h, The Nature of Science, there is a discussion of a quote in the Framework “Epistemic knowledge is knowledge of the constructs and values that are intrinsic to science. Students need to understand what is meant, for example, by an observation, a hypothesis, an inference, a model, a theory, or a claim and be able to distinguish among them” (NRC, 2012, page 79). The discussion in the appendix goes on to point out that the Framework quote above presents concepts and activities important to understanding the nature of science as a complement to the practices imbedded in investigations, field studies, and experiments. In other words, an understanding of the Nature of Science and how science works is necessary for students to engage in the practices and 3-dimensional learning.  This learning experience and discussion serves as the springboard to a series of experiences to help students understand:

  • Scientific Knowledge is Based on Empirical Evidence  
  • Scientific Knowledge is Open to Revision in Light of New Evidence


Collective Wisdom

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The Need…

One of the many benefits of being a connected educator is the end to isolation.  According to studies by Scholastic and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, teachers spend only about 3% of their teaching day collaborating with colleagues.  Lack of time to collaborate with colleagues has consistently been reported as one of the top 2 challenges in teacher’s daily work.  Considering these statistics, it is no surprise that in our opening #NGSSchat on Goals for the New Year, collaboration was a top trend.  I loved this tweet shared by a member of the #NGSSchat PLN, DIane Johnson @MDHJohnson pictured below in response the the question:

What support do you need to achieve your 2016 classroom goals?

Collective WIsdom

Collective Wisdom paired with Reflection continues to drive my professional growth.  I agree with Diane in that what educators report they need are models and examples to enact the kind of transformative change envisioned in the Framework and NGSS.

The Plan…

I am blessed to be involved in many collaborations that continue to support the development of my capacities which, in turn, support my students.  In addition, I have adopted a classroom thought partner.  In this partnership, we will work to coach each other to strengthen classroom practice and implement new instructional models around the NGSS and 21st Century Learning.  As we navigate this semester, we will be sharing our classrooms through blog posts in a thread called

Making Thinking Visible


Our hope is that by sharing our classrooms and the thinking behind instructional and assessment decisions, we will be able to connect and receive feedback from others as well as contribute to the national science education conversation.

Grade- Level Specific #NGSSchat Opportunities

#NGSSchat provides support to deepen participant understanding of the #NGSS that can then be leveraged to implement the standards to transform teaching and learning. A primary goal of this chat has been to provide opportunities for learning and sharing through conversation around the vision captured in the Framework for K12 Science Education “that students, over multiple years of school, actively engage in science and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen their understanding of each field’s disciplinary core ideas”

The #NGSSchat PLN is excited about providing a forum to continue those K12 conversations around the research-grounded NGSS and Framework to improve science teaching and learning.

We are also excited to launch a new series of grade-level specific chats during the hour leading up to #NGSSchat.

Mary Starr @starrscience and Kathy Renfrew @KRScienceLady have launched and elementary NGSS chat #elNGSSchat .  This chat focuses on K – 5 #NGSS discussions and takes place from 8 – 9 ET on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month prior to #NGSSchat.

Grade-level chats for Middle School and High School educators and those that support them will begin on October 15 at 8:30 PM ET.  These chats will last 30 minutes and take place on the 3rd Thursday of the month just before #NGSSchat.  The Middle School chat will use the hashtag #msNGSSchat and the High School chat will use the hashtag #hsNGSSchat .

Grade level

These grade-level chats will provide opportunities for more specific and personalized discussions around the #NGSS as well as a rich network of support for implementation.

Please join us!